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    A note on NYC play, “FRANKENSTEIN UPSTAIRS”

    Modern extensions of classic monster mythos are rarely enthralling. Often, it’s the straining to connect, or continue that story and losing sight of what should be the focus — this story’s characters and heart —that does it in. Admittedly, that unavoidable exposition is where Mac Rogers’ new play, FRANKENSTEIN UPSTAIRS feels slightly bogged down, but it’s sure not lacking in character, heart or an intense emotional center. Now playing at the Secret Theatre, the show marries domestic drama and horror story with both wit and tragedy, drawing you in with the former before breaking you down in its second act.

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    “THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP” (Movie Review)

    It never ceases to irk me when filmmakers are adamant about their movies not falling into the category of ‘genre’ films; however, THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP (available on Digital and VOD now from Factory 25) can’t be labeled a horror movie per se. Instead, Rebecca Daly’s feature writing/directing debut is a slow burning mystery with elements of horror. Rather than brimming with cheap thrills to induce quick scares, it is wrought with a deliberate tension that builds throughout the course of the film.

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    “BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO” (Movie Review)

    [This review was originally published out of the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012. It is reposted below in light of the film’s theatrical and VOD release.] The word “homage” is a battered old mare when it comes to horror, with many a filmmaker confusing the term—which can most appropriately be applied to directors like Brian De Palma or Quentin Tarantino, who graft elements and DNA of pictures they admire onto fresh frameworks—with ripoff. Look at the “grindhouse” phenomenon, a dubious and meaningless label that has given birth to an endless parade of pink-tinted, fake-aged visuals and replicant movements creating works that are by now rather tired, unimaginative and poor Xeroxes of the accidentally awesome trash classics they ape.

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    “HATCHET III” (Movie Review)

    BJ McDonnell never had a chance. From the beginning, HATCHET III is a film at odds with itself. Opening in the closing moments of the painful HATCHET II, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) finds herself in the throes of bloodthirsty frenzy. With Victor Crowley’s scalp in hand, she begins a long walk through the swamp. Seemingly shot on location, it’s here that camera operator-turned-director McDonnell attempts to add to the saga of Victor Crowley, namely by employing actual visual atmosphere. Marybeth wanders, traumatized, through the picturesque region. On mute, you might think these films were progressing.

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    “THIS IS THE END” (Movie Review)

    A self-referential bro comedy featuring a bunch of mainstream stars playing themselves may not sound like FANGORIA material, but THIS IS THE END packs in more gore and cooler creatures than many a straight horror film, and more laughs than any outright horror spoof in recent memory.

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    “THE PURGE” (Movie Review)

    In the world of THE PURGE, the annual act is sold as both catharsis and entertainment (as a live Purge feed reveals during a stark opening credits). What’s troubling in this vision of American future and attempt at parallel of America current —aside from the fact that murder is wrong — is the question of this catharsis and just what and who it’s for?

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    “V/H/S/2″ (Movie Review)

    [This review was initially published in January 2013, it is reposted below in light of the film's VOD release.] Where V/H/S was a raw, lo-fi and frightening odyssey via POV, its sequel is—and from the very outset—bigger, weirder and even reflective of its predecessor. In the first few minutes alone, V/H/S/2 runs through almost every format previously explored, from spy camera to camcorder to iChat; and almost every perspective as well, from investigative to voyeuristic (often both at the same time) to daily doings. And while less traditionally dreadful, where it all leads is infinitely more thrilling.

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    Shout Factory’s “DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY” and “RACE WITH THE DEVIL” double disc! (Movie Review)

    Many might consider EASY RIDER or THE TRIP to be the infernal inception of the Peter Fonda phenomenon. As an impressionable 9 year old, however, who first encountered Fonda while he was exploding from a 12″ B&W Magnavox screen during the World Television Premiere of DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY and shortly followed up by the incendiary RACE WITH THE DEVIL, the concept of this perfect double bill was already indelibly seared into my young, malleable brain.

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    “THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” (DVD Review)

    Image Entertainment has done a solid job keeping THE TWILIGHT ZONE alive in the digital format for a decade, including the recent immaculate Blu-ray releases that re-presented all five glorious seasons with every kind of extra, both old and new. Because of this, there‘s little reason to write anything about yet another re-release. And yet, we’re gonna do just that.

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    “BLOW OUT” (Blu-ray Review, Arrow Films)

    In the late 70s and early 80s, audiences didn’t look forward to the next movie directed by Brian De Palma, they got excited about the new Brian De Palma film. After the success of CARRIE, De Palma was able to disappear into his own imagination and create films routed entirely in his own interests. His director-for-hire phase would begin shortly with SCARFACE, but for a few glorious years De Palma was in charge of his own scripts and destiny and used his auteur power to dabble in grand entertaining thrillers that doubled as deadpan satires of filmmaking convention and self-conscious explorations of the director’s personal obsessions. Of this flock of golden age Brian De Palma, none were better than his 1981 flick BLOW OUT.

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    “BEHIND THE SCENES OF TOTAL HELL” (Movie Review)

    There’s a great scene in Tim Burton’s ED WOOD in which Wood is talking to a Hollywood producer after dropping off a copy of his first movie, GLEN OR GLENDA?. When the producer tells him that it’s “the worst film I ever saw,” Wood assures him that his next one will be even better. That is the enthusiasm of the independent filmmaker. They are driven to tell stories on celluloid, often without the benefit of a budget, a talented cast, or a clue. The results may turn out brilliantly, but in many cases the results are varying shades of crap.

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